Nathalie slipped Agnès’s postcard into her journal and was about to call Jean over when a pang of guilt struck her. Agnès was one of her dearest friends, and already Nathalie was falling behind in their correspondence for the summer. She pictured Agnès waiting for the mail, disappointed yet another day.

She reached into her bag and took out a Seine River postcard. It already had the stamp affixed, a sign of her good intentions two days ago. She stared at it for what seemed like an hour but certainly could not have been. Could it? Time was oily and ungraspable this afternoon.

Putting her pencil to the card, she spilled the thoughts out as they came into her mind, not pausing once.

Greetings from our favorite café!

I just finished eating a you-know-what and am settling in to write my article. Jean says hello.

My day, what I recall of it, has been the strangest imaginable. I have something to tell you and will do so in a letter. I’m still shaking, so apologies for the penmanship.

Much more soon,


As soon as she finished writing, she got up from the table, squeezed between a pair of sprawling potted plants, and dropped the card into a post office box.

By the time she sat down, she regretted what she’d written. Too mysterious and vague. But she couldn’t very well say what had happened in that tiny space. Nor could she pretend it was just another summer day in Paris.

I probably should have. Agnès is going to think I’ve gone mad.

Nathalie studied the post office box, trying to calculate if there was any way her lengthy arm could fit into it, when she heard the word “morgue” from the table beside her. She glanced at the well-dressed young couple on her left and shifted position to hear them better.

“A streetwalker, probably,” said the woman.

“Not necessarily.” The man loosened his ascot tie. “She could be a foreigner.”

“Or maybe the killer is a foreigner.”

He paused. “It does seem rather German in its execution.”

“Or Russian,” she said, sipping her wine. “They’re savages anyway.”

“Those cuts were precise, not savage. He could be a surgeon of some sort.”

Just then Jean came over to them, and they asked his opinion as to who the victim and killer might be. Lovers’ quarrel, he guessed. That turned into Jean sharing some of the talk he’d overheard at the café today, and the three of them gossiped so long another waiter had to “ahem” a reminder that another table needed more wine.

People want to make sense of things, M. Patenaude had explained when he hired her. What they don’t know, they invent.

What should I invent? I’ll say it was my imagination.

Some kind of vision? No, a hallucination from the heat. It must have been that. The uncertainty jabbed at her. Over.

And over.

And over again.

Her eyes fell on the yellow blossoms wilting by the minute. No matter how many times she revisited the morning, she simply couldn’t recall buying them.

“Anything else, Mademoiselle Baudin?” Jean appeared over her shoulder with a smile.

Yes, can you bring my memory back? Oh, and I saw a murder scene take place. Backward. Let me tell you about it.

That sounded like something Aunt Brigitte would say.

“Just the check, Jean. Thank you.”

Aunt Brigitte, who was in an asylum.

* * *

Nathalie darted across Quai Saint-Michel, breathless after a close call with a horse-drawn carriage, and crossed the bridge leading to the ?le de la Cité. She made her way toward Notre-Dame, which stood directly in front of the morgue, and took in its grandeur against the cloudless blue sky. She’d seen the medieval cathedral hundreds of times yet remained in awe of those majestic towers. When she was young she’d named some of the gargoyles on the very top, above the band of statues, and still greeted them whenever she passed by. Out of habit she looked up at Abelard, Tristan, and Bruno. Abelard leaned forward and shook his head at her disapprovingly.

No. It’s not real. You’re still seeing things.

She turned her attention to her article, reviewing it as she walked. She paused beside the bronze statue of Charlemagne on horseback.

She’d had to remove herself from the dream, or vision, or whatever it was, in order to clear her thoughts well enough to write the piece. Words typically danced from her pencil; today they’d tiptoed across the paper.

End each article big, M. Patenaude advised on her first day. So big they can’t wait to buy the paper the following day to read your next column.

After listing the corpses that remained from the previous day and the addition of the body of the sunburned man, Nathalie hesitated. She wasn’t accustomed to providing such gruesome details, but she knew M. Patenaude would want an elaborate description.

The most noteworthy corpse of all was that of a young woman pulled from the Seine, a murder victim. Her youthful features, sliced into horrible distortion, betrayed no sign of the terror she suffered before her untimely death at the hands of what can only have been a cold, disturbed soul.

That was it. Two summary sentences. Leaving so much unsaid. Presenting it as if she hadn’t somehow witnessed the murder taking place. Reporting it in a detached voice, as if it didn’t unsettle her down to her bones. Someone else wrote that column.

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